Sunday, January 6, 2013

10 Observations From Georgia Tech Loss To Miami In ACC Basketball Opener

Macon.com/David Goldman-AP
The Yellow Jackets fell in their conference opener to the Hurricanes Saturday 62-49 in a game not as close as the score indicates.  The loss was the program's first in the new McCamish Pavilion and ironically occurred to the same program where Tech scored their final win in Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Here are 10 observations from Saturday:

1. Miami is long and athletic. 

And played without maybe their best player, Reggie Johnson, and still won easily.  With this length inside, including 6'11" Kenny Kadji stepping outside to hit a three pointer, it is a wonder how this team lost Indiana State and something called Florida Gulf Coast College.

2. It is very apparent now Georgia Tech benefited from a early weak schedule. 

The Yellow Jackets were 10-2 coming into Saturday but all 10 wins came against teams outside of the RPI top 100 and both losses were to teams inside the RPI top 100; make that three losses as Miami was ranked 10th.

When I looked at Tech's game stats in the non-conference in 2012 vs 2011 they were not that much different.  Scoring was up a little bit, points allowed was down a little bit, and turnovers were down a little bit.  All of those differences could be chalked up to a slightly easier schedule and maybe the blowout loss to Miami should not have been surprising considering the Hurricanes are better than last year. 

Still Georgia Tech won all the games they were supposed to and that is a good sign for a rebuilding program.

3. About that easy non-conference schedule...

Georgia Tech, knowing the program was still rebuilding, took the opportunity to take some easy home wins showing off the new building to their fans and it worked.  The program was starting to generate a buzz in the city and a little bit nationally too.  Playing a tougher schedule may have made the crash after the Miami loss easier to take but losses also would not have built up excitement in the program either.  After the last two seasons, Tech fans should be thankful for a little enthusiasm in the team even if it was built a little off twigs and rabbit's feet.  And again, Georgia Tech won all the games it should have something that could not be said last year.

4. Despite improved recruiting, Georgia Tech is still missing a few key ingredients to be in the upper half of the ACC. 

The infusion of talent is apparent when you look at Tech's squad from last year but they are still missing players who can consistently penetrate and create on their own or for others.  With the disappearance of the dominant post player in the college game (except for Miami), a premium is placed on creating off the dribble and the Yellow Jackets don't have a player who can consistently do this.  At the end of the game, Tech fans got a glimpse of someone who has the potential too in early enrollee Solomon Poole.  

5. The Poole Brothers aren't quite there, yet.

The aforementioned Solomon is a big play waiting to happen, but sometimes those big plays are for the other team right now; its one good play followed by two bad plays for the would be high school senior.  Turnovers is what is keeping him on the sideline right now, but if he continues to display energy like he did Saturday he will start to take minutes from backup Pierre Jordan. 

Stacy, Jr. is trying to work his way into the rotation but is stuck behind Marcus Hunt and Jason Morris at the three position.  The Kentucky transfer has been out of game action for nearly two years and is still shaking off rust.  He was the 33rd rated recruit nationally and 4th at the Small Forward position in 2010 so the talent is there.  (For comparison, Morris was ranked 87th nationally that year).

6. A legacy hurts Georgia Tech. 

McCamish Pavilion was filled with former Tech stars including Dennis Scott, Jon Barry, and Bobby Cremins.  Head Coach Brian Gregory is working hard to get former players, who had been out of touch in the final years of Paul Hewitt's tenure, back involved in the program.  But those three couldn't come out of the stands to prevent a former Tech legacy from beating their Yellow Jackets. Rion Brown had a career high 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting to bury Tech.  Brown is the son of former Georgia Tech player Tico Brown (thanks to the AJC's Jeff Schultz for pointing this out). He was not offered by Hewitt according to Rivals (Kadji was by the way).

7. Brian Gregory has to find a way to use depth to his advantage

Miami had the three best players on the court Saturday in Shane Larkin, Kadji, and Brown (though Brown was playing over his normal ability).  What Georgia Tech lacks in elite players it has to make up with depth.  Last season, the Yellow Jackets had neither but an infusion of talent gives them nine players who SHOULD be able to provide double-digit minutes at the ACC level and with a little development from the younger Poole that number should be 10. 

8. McCamish Pavilion continues to impress. 

Everyone who has been to the new arena has been blown away by how nice it is (and different from the old coliseum).  From the theater lighting to the open concourses it is a great venue that will continue to aid in Tech's recruiting which will in turn build up the program again.  Speaking of recruiting, the Yellow Jackets were schedule to have an official visitor on campus for the game in PG prospect Travis Jorgenson who is considering GT along with Boston College and Oklahoma State among others.  Gallery from opening night vs Tulane at McCamish Pavilion. 

9. Looking Ahead for Miami

After the win, the 'Canes rose to #6 in this week's RPI according to statsheet.com while the Jackets fell to 132nd.  Miami faces another road ACC game at North Carolina on Thursday.  Based on the way the Tar Heels have played this season, Jim Larranaga has to feel good about his chances to score the road upset.  The following Sunday is a crucial home game against Maryland.  If the Canes are serious about making their first NCAA tournament since 2008 you have to win home games against similar/worse competition.

10. Looking Ahead for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech's schedule only gets tougher with a road date at NC State on Wednesday.  The Wolfpack squad is on par with Miami, so pulling off a win here will be a very tall task.  The following Saturday is a must win at home against a lagging Virginia Tech squad. 

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